3D Printing Human Tissue? Organovo Leads the Way

     3D printing has been all the craze over the past few years, with commercially available 3D printers bursting onto the scene in 2010 and improving in quality ever since. In the commercial desktop 3D printer sector, MakerBot’s Replicator 2 leads the way, but mobile/wireless printing seems to be catching steam. Looking at The Buccaneer’s astronomically successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s obvious that the sector has huge potential and the public is loving it. But could 3D printers actually be used to print biological tissue?

     That question has been on the minds of scientists and engineers since 2012, and a number of biotech firms have been developing 3D printing for bioengineering applications. So far, 3D printing has been used to create simple structures such as personalized hip replacements, blood vessel tissue, and even an ear made of cartilage.

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3D printed ear

     

The major issue so far has been in trying to create more complex systems such as organs, but biotech company Organovo has recently developed the NovoGen Bioprinting system, which can print liver tissue models that can be used in the laboratory for all kinds of studies. It’s easy to imagine the possibilities that such a system can have on therapy. With over 75,000 people on the organ transplant list in the US alone, and not nearly enough donors to meet demand, it’s technologies like these that could be real game-changers on the public health stage.

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